Das Lied der Nacht, Op. 23 (in two volumes, with German libretto)
Hans Gál – Das Lied der Nacht
(b. Brunn am Gebirge, Austria, 5. August 1890 – d. Edinburgh, 3. October 1987)
Hans Gál was born in what is now a suburb of Vienna and died in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1987. His life was punctuated by the major political and social upheavals of 20th Century Europe: he experienced at first hand the First World War; the rise of Nazism and dismissal in 1933 from his post as Director of the municipal Music College in Mainz; the Anschluss of Austria to the German Reich in 1938 and his escape to Great Britain, where he was to remain for the rest of his life; the Second World War and a period of internment as an “enemy alien” on the Isle of Man; a radically changed post-war cultural climate, particularly from the 1960s, in which he became an increasingly marginal figure as a composer. He nevertheless remained creatively productive for the whole of his life, leaving an extensive compositional oeuvre, as well as books on Brahms, Wagner, Verdi, Schubert and Schumann.
Gál’s compositions include four operas, four symphonies, large-scale cantatas, and a host of chamber, piano and vocal works. By the end of his long life, he had left a legacy of around 140 published works. Gál never doubted the continuing validity of tonality, nor the potential for saying something new within that medium. This is clearly evident in the vitality and range of his oeuvre.
Weimar Germany during the 1920s was a period of extraordinary cultural resurgence and vitality, offering the young composer unparalleled opportunities. His second opera, Die Heilige Ente, [‘The Sacred Duck’], premièred in 1923 in Düsseldorf, was immediately adopted by six other theatres for the following season and remained in the repertoire until it was axed by Hitler, alongside all Gál’s other work, in 1933. Das Lied der Nacht, [‘The Song of the Night’] was Gál’s third opera. Following hard on the heels of the success of ‘Die Heilige Ente’, it was composed in 1924/25, and was premièred on 24th April 1926 in Breslau. The critic of the Schlesische Tagespost hailed it as “a great success. For me personally the evening was altogether one of the most powerful operatic experiences ever. Music and poetic conception combined in the happiest fashion.” Another critic writes: “The harmonic combinations are thoroughly modern, but modern in the best sense; they signify an enrichment of the expressive palette, they are spiritually conceived, they communicate an original experience of beauty throughout…All in all, therefore, the new opera constitutes an enormous advance for the composer as, alongside the mastery and creativity which we had already admired in Die Heilige Ente, it opens up for the first time the fullness of his heart” [Breslauer Zeitung]
Gál’s librettist was once again Michael Freiherr von Levetzow, (also the librettist of his fourth and final opera, Die Beiden Klaas, whose planned première in 1933 fell victim to Hitler’s total ban on all his work). Gál had composed incidental music for a drama by Levetzow, Ruth,.in 1920, when he was employed as composer at the Theater an der Wien. After their first operatic collaboration, Die Heilige Ente, Gál had no interest in working with any other librettist. His widow Hanna describes the lengths they had to go to in order, finally, to track down Levetzow in a remote spot in Corsica, where he was living, penniless, with his partner Jean-Baptiste, intending (in vain, it appears), to provide for themselves by hunting and fishing: “Auf dem Bett von Levetzow sitzend wurden die ersten Ideen für Das Lied der Nacht skizziert und diskutiert.“ [Hanna Gál, October 1989] Levetzow, a colourful, totally unconventional character (from an aristocratic family in Moravia and distantly related to Goethe’s last love, Ulrike von Levetzow), was a poet, dramatist and satirist. Levetzow clearly shared with Gál a deep humanistic education and a zany sense of humour. …
Read full preface > HERE